Kenya: Police Probe Political Link to Deadly Attacks in Isiolo

Police in Isiolo are investigating claims that politicians are linked to violence that has rocked the area for the last three months, leading to the deaths of 21 people, in bid to bring to book the faceless people behind the killings.

There has been concerns by the public that the attacks were politically instigated, besides cattle rustling and proliferation of illegal firearms that continue to trigger the violence between pastoralist communities.

Following recent separate twin attacks at Yachis and Urura in Merti where two people were killed and another one injured, Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding said investigations are underway in a bid to apprehend faceless people, including politicians, suspected to be involved in the attacks.

“We want to dig deeper and find out if there are underhand faceless people behind the attacks or if they are just normal thugs. If we find any politician involved, we will deal with them and conduct a crackdown on the masterminds,” Mr Omoding told Nation.Africa.

A number of local MPs and MCAs have been accused of inciting and financing attacks on some communities.

Crackdown

The administrator warned that the crackdown will not spare those being used to unleash terror on other communities.

Four people were three weeks ago shot dead and two, among them an 11-year-old boy, were injured by bandits suspected to have come from Samburu County.

That incident happened barely two weeks after five people were shot dead while sleeping at their Madowale home near the Isiolo-Wajir border.

A week earlier, six people were killed in a fierce fire exchange between two groups of herders at Attan in Ngaremara in the Buffalo Springs National Reserve, about 20km from Isiolo town, prompting a 10-day operation to eject armed herders from the reserve.

Besides control of resources, the attacks among pastoralist communities are at times fuelled by politicians for their own selfish gains of safeguarding their electoral bases, and will often defend their people even when they attack their neighbours and even arm them to “secure themselves”.

Local leaders recently complained that failure to avert the attacks could turn the county into a battlefield and result to loss of more lives and animals, thus impoverishing majority of the residents whose economic mainstay is pastoralism.

Drought

The leaders expressed fears that the situation could worsen in the coming months due to drought that has resulted in depletion of pastures and drying of water sources.

Mr Omoding said the security team had reactivated networks to the Nyumba Kumi level and intensified peace meetings to ensure coexistence among communities living within the volatile border points.

“We are working together with our Samburu, Laikipia, Wajir and Garissa neighbours in sharing of intelligence reports which are being promptly acted on to contain the insecurity menace,” he said.

He put young Samburu morans on notice over increasing attacks along the Isiolo-Samburu border.

“They should abandon the retrogressive culture (of stealing livestock) or they perish,” Mr Omoding said while warning of a more ruthless approach to dealing with the menace.

While calling on those with illegal guns to surrender them to police, the administrator said anyone with an illegal firearm will be treated as a criminal as that risks the lives of people living around him or her.

Few police officers

There have also been concerns over inadequate police officers to cover the vast county occupying 25,336 square kilometres, with leaders on several occasions calling for the posting of Rapid Deployment and Anti Stock Theft Units officers to insecurity-prone and border areas to avert cattle raids.

Isiolo Woman Representative Rehema Jaldesa recently accused the government of failing to ensure past declarations and agreements between communities, especially on sharing of resources, are strictly adhered to.

She urged the Ministry of Interior to deploy more officers to the county to boost security operations and equip them with vehicles for traversing the region in order to deal with bandits who continue to unleash terror in broad daylight.

Mr Omoding confirmed that more police officers had been posted to the county to help deal with the insecurity menace but lamented network challenges in the remote areas.

“We are working to ensure they (officers) have requisite logistics to ply the county but appeal to network service providers to install masts in the far-flung areas to boost communication and ensure quick response to insecurity cases,” he appealed.

Eastern Regional Commissioner Isaiah Nakoru said deployment of more officers to the insecurity-prone areas is underway and that disarmament campaigns across cattle rustling-prone areas would be stepped up.

The disarmament appears to hardly deter these communities from continuing with a tradition that has left thousands dead and livestock worth millions of shillings stolen.

  Gun mop-ups

But recent gun mop-ups have seen the seizure of 20 firearms from criminals either shot dead or arrested between February and June this year.

“The warring communities should embrace peace or risk the wrath of the law,” Mr Nakoru said in a recent interview with Nation.Africa.

He said several arrests had been made recently and the culprits prosecuted. He added that arrests have been made on both sides.

Some 346 suspects linked to various criminal activities, including banditry, and drug and human trafficking, have been arrested in the last six months.

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